Mountain View and Union have become fierce rivals for the Camas High School boys swimmers in the Greater St. Helens League.
“It’s a battle of friends versus friends with bragging rights on the line,” said Camas head coach Mike Bemis. “I guess you could call it a highlight meet. The kids talk about this meet all season long, and it always lives up to expectations. That’s what makes it so fun.”
The Papermakers propelled expectations Wednesday and became Greater St. Helens League champions in their first season competing at the 4A level. Camas defeated Mountain View 188-97 and Union 203-80 Wednesday, at LaCamas Swim & Sport. The Papermakers also handled Heritage 229-16 and Evergreen 221-35.
“It was the last home meet of the season for the seniors, and they went out undefeated and as league champions for the second year in a row,” Bemis said. “The harder part is going to be matching what the girls did and becoming 4A district champions the first time out.”
Camas will find out if it is up to the task at the 4A district meet Friday, Feb. 8, at Propstra Pool, 605 N. Devine, in Vancouver. But first, the Papermakers enter the Southwest Washington Invitational Saturday, at Mark Morris High School, 1602 Mark Morris Court, in Longview.
Kasey Calwell, Jake Yraceburu, Lucas Ulmer and Xianguang Yan kicked off Wednesday’s theatrics by winning the 200-meter medley relay and improving their state qualifying time to 1 minute, 55.99 seconds.
“The excitement in the air was pretty great. Our first relay began with very high morale,” Yan said. “We just carried that spirit throughout the meet and put up a great fight.”
Seth Albert and Max Urbanek pushed themselves to first and second place in the 200 freestyle. Albert won with a time of 2:09.8 and Urbanek followed in 2:12.77.
“Max is such a good swimmer. It’s fun racing against him,” Albert said. “Whenever we swim next to each other, we want to get first and second.”
Yraceburu (1:11.3), Calwell (1:12.85), Joseph Wunderlich (1:20.32) and Nick Panebianco (1:20.57) grabbed the top four places in the 100 breaststroke. Ulmer (1:01.98) and Trent Harimoto (1:07.97) finished first and second in the 100 butterfly. Ulmer earned first in the 100 backstroke (1:03.31), Calwell clinched first in the 200 individual medley (2:15.94) and Urbanek took first in the 400 freestyle (4:37.93).
Albert, Yan, Calwell and Ulmer capped off the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay (3:53.58). Albert, Harimoto, Yan and Yraceburu took third in the 200 freestyle relay (1:47.39). Yraceburu also earned third in the 50 freestyle (25.98) and Albert finished fourth in the 100 freestyle (1:00.11).
“Just leave everything in the pool and take nothing out. And then do it all over again in your next race,” Albert said. “If you can go out there and do your best in all four of your events, it’s a good day. Sometimes your best isn’t first, but you give all you got.”
Yan bolstered all three relays for the Papermakers. He swam the final leg of the 200 medley, the third leg of the 200 freestyle and the second leg of the 400 freestyle.
“These guys give you such a competitive vibe,” Yan said. “You see how fast they’re going and how hard they push themselves. It makes you want to jump in there and give as much as they gave you.”
Bemis said finding the right combination of swimmers in a relay race is the key to success at the state meet. The Papermakers have built six strong foursomes, two in each event, to maximize their point total.
“Not only do we have the depth, but we also have the quality,” Bemis said. “That’s kind of been our hallmark the last few years for both the boys and girls.
“When you can build strong relays like we have, you obviously have strong individual swimmers,” he added.